PFC Levski Sofia are a step closer to realising their dream of becoming the first Bulgarian team to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League after defeating AC Chievo Verona 2-0 in the first leg of their final qualifying round tie.
Things could have been so different for the Italian visitors had Brazilian forward Amauri not shot straight at goalkeeper Georgi Petkov from close range after a first-minute slip by Elin Topuzakov. Levski punished that profligacy on eight minutes as Lucio Wagner and Hristo Yovov combined down the left and the latter's low cross was met by Valeri Domovchiyski whose shot gave Chievo custodian Vincenzo Sicignano no chance.
Chievo, playing their first match at this level following one previous campaign in the UEFA Cup, began the second half strongly and Simone Tiribocchi failed to take advantage of a decent opening before having a goal disallowed for a foul on Igor Tomašić. Levski responded in kind, Domovchiyski flicking a header narrowly wide. Giuseppe Scurto then hit the post for the Serie A side, while Petkov did well to repel two efforts from Sergio Pellissier.
Levski coach Stanimir Stoilov's decision to swap the tiring Domochiyski and Dimitar Telkiyski with Emil Angelov and Miroslav Ivanov proved instrumental in the second goal, as Angelov was felled in the area after running on to a through-ball from his fellow substitute. Frenchman Cédric Bardon stepped up to coolly dispatch the penalty, leaving Stoilov to say: “We’re under no illusions about the second leg – it will be very tough as Chievo will throw everything at us as they need a win.”